What do you want more: sweet or salty?
You’re either a chocolate person or a chips person – or sometimes both. At certain times of the month, or when you’re feeling a bit low or stressed, you’re crying into your chocolate bar.
Then suddenly things change and you’re after the salty crunch of a crisp.
It kind of leaves you wondering which is more addictive, sweet or salty food? Before I dive in and answer that, let’s get clear on the difference between a craving and an addiction.
Craving vs Addiction
A craving is an insatiable desire for something.
An addiction, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. Psychology Today says addiction is a condition whereby the continued use of or act of something becomes compulsive and interferes with life’s ordinary responsibilities, like work, relationships or health.
Assuming that we’re talking about cravings in this article, let’s look at causes of cravings for either sweet or salty foods. Basically, it comes down to your physiology and your psychology.
The sweet stuff
Certain hormonal imbalances can trigger sweet cravings.
If your diet is too low in protein and healthy fats, and/or too high in carbs, you might create an insulin imbalance that drives hunger and cravings.
Example: Jane loves her muesli and banana for breakfast, and an English muffin with jam for morning tea. But this high-carb, low-protein eating pattern in the morning causes a massive blood sugar shift, and she finds herself hungry and craving sweets for the rest of the day.
If you are a highly stressed person, your stress hormones increase and can drive insatiable cravings.
Example: Sheena is working 12 hour days right now, being responsible for a huge project at work. She’s tired but wired, and is constantly craving sugar, coffee, biscuits and chips.
Solution: Whether your cravings are driven by imbalanced meals or stress, the solution is the same – ensure you have protein rich foods at each main meal, such as eggs, ricotta cheese, meat, fish, chicken, tofu, beans or tempeh.
Best-selling author Doreen Virtue has written an in-depth and well-researched book on cravings, linking them to both emotional states and also, past experiences.
Doreen makes the following links between sweet cravings and emotional states:
– Chocolate cravings may indicate you’re hungry for love, happiness or self-nurturing
– Biscuit, cake and pie cravings may indicate you’re hungry for hugs, pleasure and reassurance
– Lolly or sugar cravings may indicate you’re hungry for an energy boost, reward or entertainment.
Obviously, past experience is also important.
If your mother soothed you with lollies or biscuits after you hurt yourself, you probably carry that memory and it’s your remedy for the hurt you encounter today.
Solution: if one of these profiles rings true, think of other ways that you can meet your needs, like catching up with friends, a long hot bath, or a phone call with a loved one.
The Salt Mine
Salt is an important part of survival.
– If you stop eating salt in all forms, your body tries to reach equilibrium by expelling water.
– If you eat too much salt, it makes you thirsty – your body’s way of balancing things up.
Sometimes, your state of hydration influences salt cravings.
Solution: maintain good hydration. Use your urine colour as an indicator – pale straw coloured is ideal, or, you are going to the toilet once every 1 – 2 hours.
Doreen Virtue makes a clear link between salt cravings and stress, anger and anxiety. More to the point, it’s often not just salt you’re craving, but also fat and crunch – think crisps or hot chips with gravy!
– Stressed, anxious or angry people are often after the crunch.
– People who want to fill a feeling of emptiness often crave fatty foods.
Solution: if one of these profiles sounds familiar, look for other ways to deal with anger, stress, anxiety or emptiness.
Consider a walk in nature, time at the beach, physical activity, doing something fun, getting lost in a hobby, or shouting into a pillow.
By now, it’s pretty clear that different people crave different things, and for different reasons.
Which type of person are you?
This week, try simply observing your cravings and seeing if you can work out the triggers. Physiological cravings can be easily addressed with minor dietary changes.
Emotional cravings may be more complex, but can often be addressed by finding more fun, connection and relaxation time. What’s one thing you can experiment with this week to make a difference to your cravings?
Connect with Expert Melanie White.